We travel a lot! Louie has been on about 30 flights and now we’re gearing up for our first flight with both kids. We always knew we wanted our kids to be familiar with the routine of traveling, and while not all flights have been great we have learned a lot of things along the way.
I have a lot to share so I’m breaking this into a three post series starting with this one focused on the airport and airplane. Settle in. It’s a lot of information but I promise it’ll be helpful!
A few first thoughts:
- Kids under 2 fly free – be sure to book a lap child and don’t forget their birth certificate
- You are allowed a diaper bag + your under seat bag (2 bags total)
- Car seats always are checked for free
- Strollers are gate checked for free
- Every airline has early family boarding so you can get settled on the plane
- Wear your baby. Even if you bring a stroller, throw your stuff in the stroller and wear your baby. It makes getting through security much easier, you have two hands free and it’s easy to calm a baby when they are restrained and close to your chest in flight
- Don’t bring a stroller unless you absolutely need one and if you do I highly recommend this one that fits in the overhead bins: GB Pockit Travel Stroller
- Other options: buy a cheapie at your destination and donate before leaving. Borrow one from friends/family at your destination. If you visit family a lot buy one to leave at their home
- If you are gate checking your car seat or stroller get a padded bag (the airline doesn’t care and will destroy these items): JL Childress Car Seat Bag
- When you arrive at your gate you have to get a gate check ticket for any car seats or strollers. Just ask at the counter and they’ll tag these items for you
- If bringing a car seat in flight, get a car seat roller for older kids. This is huge for getting it through the airport with kiddo strapped in: Brica Car Seat Transporter
- If traveling with two adults have one board first to get everything settled and have the other adult and toddler board last. Easier to entertain a toddler running around the gate area than sitting on a plane longer than absolutely necessary
- If nursing or pumping use the App Mamava to find a nursing pod in your airport!
- Sit in an aisle seat. Kids move a lot.
- For toddlers 2+ who you buy a seat for, bring the car seat. I know it’s annoying and bulky, but knowing they are in their seat and buckled eliminates them wanting to get up a bunch
- Bring 3-4 toys that are favorites. Babies are too young to get excited over new toys, they want familiar things. For toddlers I pack a few familiar toys and 1-2 small new toys that I know he’ll love and be excited about. Bring a teether if baby is teething! I try to pack “flat toys” that don’t bulk up a backpack: Travel felt board, Sticker book and coloring book with triangle crayons (so they don’t roll!), Indestructible Books, and then a few small cars or dinosaur figurines
- Rely on technology. We aren’t big TV people with Louie but we have an Amazon Kindle and headphones that we use for travel only. It’s kind of a special treat and holds his attention for a short while. We download a few apps, books and a few kid shorts for him to watch (another post on this soon)
- Don’t pull out the good toys/new toys until absolutely needed – will buy yourself some time!
- Bring plenty of snacks. For older babies snacks can double as entertainment. It can take forever to eat 1 puff or blueberry at a time. For toddlers give a little snack every 30 min or so. It wastes time and keeps them happy and they don’t get over hungry. I make a big deal about getting cleaned up and getting the snack ready. Anything to waste more time.
- Bring a change of clothes and dress kids in clothes you don’t care about. Blowouts and spills happen. I’d rather throw out a crappy outfit in flight then deal with trying to clean it.
- Don’t skimp on diapers, but don’t over pack either. I pack 1 diaper for every 3 hours from the time we leave the house until the time we get our luggage, where I have a few more stashed
- Airplanes are gross. Bring disposable changing papers to put under your cushy changing pad: Munchkin Disposable Changing Pads
- Louie’s ears never bothered him on flights, but nursing and/or bottle feeding and pacifiers can help with that
- Most people are fine with babies and toddlers around them and think they’re adorable. Once Louie was mobile we walked up and down the aisle a million times and stopped at every person to talk or say hi. People actually don’t’ mind it.
- Bring something to disinfect the seats and trays. Kids are gross. Airplanes are gross.
- Pack a blanket for baby – planes are cold and this will help keep them warm and hopefully sleep better. Can double as a nursing cover or cover for baby to make it dark so he can fall asleep
- Bring a burp cloth/bib – even if spit ups don’t happen often they might happen in flight
- If baby is very fussy stand in the back bouncing to try and get to sleep. The flight attendants usually don’t care, it’s more comfortable than the aisle and it’s louder back there, so the white noise usually puts them to sleep after a few min of fussing
To/From the Airport
- If we need car seats at our destination or in flight we always take a Lyft to the airport. Much easier to get dropped off curbside and popping out your car seat than dealing with parking and shuttling a car seat, luggage, pack n play, baby, etc.
- If we don’t need car seats (borrowing at our destination) we will drive and park and shuttle because we have one less thing to haul with us.
- If we do need car seats at our destination and we also decide to drive to the airport we pack our second set of car seats from one of our cars and leave the already installed car seats in the vehicle we take to the airport. This way we’re not struggling to install car seats while in a parking lot and we just want to get home. We just throw the ones we traveled with in the trunk and we’re on our way.
- If its meal or snack time on the way to the airport I’ll feed Louie in the car. This eliminates any meltdowns due to hunger at the airport when it’s already a high stress situation. I’ve literally fed him an entire lunch in the back of a Lyft one time!
- We always tip our Lyft driver (assuming they were great) after the ride. With these services you don’t have to tip, but it takes us a few minutes to get the car seat in their car once they arrive, get settled, etc. and usually kids are cranky coming home so the ride isn’t always pleasant!
Only one flight comes to mind with Louie when we all wanted to cry. It was a flight home from Boston last summer, he was 21 months old, I was 5 months pregnant and he just wasn’t having it. He cried nearly the entire flight, didn’t matter what we did to help him. At the end of the day I always remind myself that we’ll never see these people again and it’s the worst while you’re in it, but it is what it is.
While air travel with toddlers and babies is always “going to suck” as Al put it recently (haha!), there are a lot of things you can do to prepare ahead of time to make the whole day go a bit smoother.
I hope this was helpful for you! What other airplane travel tips do you guys have that you would add to this list?
Stay tuned for:
- Part 2 – Packing for Travel with Babies and Toddlers
- Part 3 – Vacationing with Babies & Toddlers
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